The end of summer, the start of a new (football) season
This is “What’s Making Me Happy This Week,” a weekly feature inspired by the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. It’s pretty self-explanatory.
What’s Making Me Happy This Week is the end of summer. I think that for most people summer is their favorite season, and the end of it (marked by Labor Day) is a sad annual milestone. I like summer, but to me every year has four seasons: winter, spring, summer and football. The last one is by far my favorite.
I don’t think of Labor Day weekend as an ending but as a beginning, as for me the weekend typically includes a fantasy football draft. Then it’s time to gear up for the regular season, which begins with the big kickoff game on the Thursday night of the first week in September. Often, leading up to the season I will read footballoutsiders.com excellent annual season preview, “Football Outsiders Almanac“, though this year I skipped it in favor of a different piece of football literature – Chris B. Brown’s “The Essential Smart Football.” For the past several years Brown has posted sophisticated analysis of football strategies on his website, Smart Football, with the best of those articles collected and published in his book. Want to understand why the Houston Texans running game is so successful, or why the spread offense has spread throughout the NFL and college, or how specific dynamic players such as safeties Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed or lineman Vince Wilfork have revolutionized their teams’ strategic approaches? Brown is the man to educate you. So many people think of football as a game of brutality – it is often analogized to war – but it is critical to realize that like in war, strategy is as important (if not more so) than brute strength. That understanding is beginning to spread, as sites like Football Outsiders have gained in popularity while academically-oriented football writers like Brown, Bill Barnwell, (formerly of FO and now a writer for Grantland), Michael David Smith (of NBC Sports’ ProFootballTalk) and others gain in prominence. The people who think that football is all about big fat men lining up and smashing into each other without rhyme or reason simply haven’t been watching. It’s a beautiful sport to behold.
With my reading behind me, I’m anxious for the games to begin. My beloved New York Giants – winners of two Super Bowls since 2007 – open up on Sunday night, September 8 in Dallas against their hated rival, the Dallas Cowboys. This rivalry has been going on for over 50 years and is no less heated now that it was at any time in the teams’ history. The following week the Giants come home for a game against the Denver Broncos, pitting Giants quarterback Eli Manning against his older brother Peyton. Both men have been Super Bowl MVPs (Eli twice) and have had long and successful careers, but this will only be the second time they’ve faced each other, and the first since either became a champion. Two exciting matchups, two amazing story lines, in just the first two weeks of the season. Summer ends, football season begins – and I can’t wait another moment.
And that’s What’s Making Me Happy This Week.